In a bucking of primary-season tradition that might just fend off the Michele Bachmann of 2016, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is now floating the idea of killing the Ames Straw Poll. Since 1979, a sliver of Iowans have voted for their favorite GOP candidate the summer before the presidential caucuses, and it remains to be seen, somehow, as an important early measure of the candidates' organizing strength and appeal to voters. The tradition raises a lot of money for the party, and brings attention to the state. It also brings a lot of undue attention to past winners like Pat Robertson. In 2011, of course, Iowans picked Michele Bachmann, who proved to be not exactly ready for primetime, but whose victory forced the more mainstream Tim Pawlenty out of the race. "I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Branstad told The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. "It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over." Only two pre-primary straw-poll winners have gone on to win the Republican nomination: George W. Bush and Bob Dole (who tied for the "win").
Republicans are looking for someone to blame for the 2012 election, and there are a few candidates: awkward Mitt Romney, Obama-hugger Chris Christie, campaign consultants, and their crazy voters. The blame-our-crazy-voters theory has mostly just been hinted at, with pundits talking about the rightward pressure from Fox News-watching "gullible grass-roots activists," or outgoing Rep. Steve LaTourette saying they'd been brainwashed by hard-right special interest groups to pick bad candidates. But voterphobia is especially obvious in Branstad's threat to take away their straw poll. States have been competing to move their primaries earlier in the year in order to have a bigger say in the election. The straw poll isn't an official result, but it forces candidates to compete heavily in Iowa very early. But it sounds like Branstad, who cited Bachmann's rise as a reason to spike the straw poll, thinks the social conservatives in Iowa might have too much say. Not that it's stopping the Marco Rubios of the world from stopping by.
The 2015 Iowa State Fair, in case you're counting, is less than 1,000 days away.
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